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sidd

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Irresponsible research
« on: October 05, 2018, 07:31:17 AM »
The research I discuss below might belong in several threads, but there are several avenues of irresponsible research and some geoengineering  schemes come to mind. But when i read this, chills ran up my spine.

The gist is:

There is research in progress in using insects to disperse modified viruses to plants they feed on. These viruses will, in turn, modify plant genomes. The modifications extend to affecting the chromosomal germline  so that the modified traits will be inherited.

The research is being touted as giving plants traits to resist stressors like drought, flood,frost,salinity or disease. In addition plants could get traits to resist herbicides.

The crops being targeted currently are maize and tomatoes. The insects are leafhoppers, whiteflies and aphids.

Most of this research could be done with sprays instead of insects.

Remember Roundup ... and how the genemod for resistance wasn't supposed to spread cross species. Well, here's your worst nightmare. Those insects will feed on everything in the neighbourhood, and the virus they transmit will attempt to modify everything they feed on. And the insects and the virus will mutate. And the gene editing tech they will probably use is CRISPR which has been to misfire or fire in unexpected direction.

This is one of the stupidest and most dangerous experiments i can think of. And very easily weaponized, to boot.

And it's my tax dollars at work. Funding agency is DARPA. I regret to say that two universities i have worked at are involved, ohio state and penn state. I still throw some money their way, so they still pick up the fone. And tomorrow i am on the fone with them explaining why the money will stop. And i intend to take this up with the Institutional Review Board at both universities. I go by both campuses frequently, i might wander in in person. And now that i think about it, my sister does the same for UC Davis, who is a participant. And she is a donor, and a biochemist, so this should get her dander up too.

Another avenue is the Farm Bureau and Farmers Union, i am a member of both. They will not like this either. They remember other experiments which weren't supposed to spread. None of my neighbours will like this either, and they include some noisy folk.

I encourage everyone to work with their local groups to shut this down.

Unfortunately, I am pessimistic. As the paper points out, research like this will motivate every nation in the world to run with it.

From the paper:

"an ongoing research program funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) aims to disperse infectious genetically modified viruses that have been engineered to edit crop chromosomes directly in fields."

"the Insect Allies program is reportedly backed by more than $27 million"

"a core part of all the consortia’s work programs likely includes plant chromosomal editing by means of virally encoded CRISPR proteins"

"the assumption that a plausible regulatory pathway exists by which possibly transgenic virus–infected (and potentially genetically altered) food crops could enter national or international markets"

"it is likely that all current regulatory systems across the globe would require profound changes"

"easy simplifications (and not elaborations) of the described work program could be used to generate a new class of biological weapon"

"we are unaware of any publicly available assessments of the ethical, trade, biosafety, or international biosecurity implications that would normally accompany such a globally important program of work"

doi: 10.1126/science.aat7664

i attach the figure.

coverage at

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/04/us-plan-to-genetically-alter-crops-via-insects-feared-to-be-biological-war-plan

https://news.psu.edu/story/495037/2017/11/20/research/penn-state-team-receives-7m-award-enlist-insects-allies-food

https://www.thelantern.com/2017/12/ohio-state-scientists-to-make-plant-virus-system-turn-on-its-head-with-insect-research/

sidd
« Last Edit: October 05, 2018, 08:01:32 AM by sidd »

SteveMDFP

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Re: Irresponsible research
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2018, 08:21:09 AM »

"easy simplifications (and not elaborations) of the described work program could be used to generate a new class of biological weapon"

"we are unaware of any publicly available assessments of the ethical, trade, biosafety, or international biosecurity implications that would normally accompany such a globally important program of work"

doi: 10.1126/science.aat7664

coverage at

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/04/us-plan-to-genetically-alter-crops-via-insects-feared-to-be-biological-war-plan

https://news.psu.edu/story/495037/2017/11/20/research/penn-state-team-receives-7m-award-enlist-insects-allies-food

https://www.thelantern.com/2017/12/ohio-state-scientists-to-make-plant-virus-system-turn-on-its-head-with-insect-research/

sidd

Shit.  Thanks for the heads up.  This is an utterly irrational approach for "improving" the genetics of crops.  If one intended such a thing, you'd focus on producing "improved" seeds. 

This is transparently biological weapons research.  One applicable strategy might be that the US could bomb enemy croplands with weaponized insects that would infect crops with genes of choice.  Some genes could devastate crop yields.  Other genes could generate exotic toxins in the food.

"Safeguards" and "transparency" in the current research would have ZERO effect on the ultimate bioweapon implementation.



« Last Edit: October 05, 2018, 08:41:15 AM by SteveMDFP »

oren

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Re: Irresponsible research
« Reply #2 on: October 05, 2018, 08:28:15 AM »
What a horrible idea. Science fiction apocalypse movies begin with such experiments.

Avalonian

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Re: Irresponsible research
« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2018, 10:53:39 AM »
Bleaghh.  :(

They probably think they can keep this contained to the target plants, because of (a) host-specific viruses and (b) host-specific leafhoppers et al. Although a lot of leafhoppers are indeed very strongly tied to particular plants, others are not. Even if they use something with a strongly spefiic feeding strategy, presumably when a generalist hopper like Empoasca munches on the same crop plants, it will pick up the virus, and then transfer it to anything else it likes the look of. Some of those plants are bound to be susceptible to the same virus (e.g. various grasses, if maize is the target). And that's not counting unintended mutations.

This reminds me of that 'fertilizing the ocean with iron' idea that was actually taken seriously for a while. Absolutely fruitloop bonkers... but this time, evil to go along with it.

TerryM

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Re: Irresponsible research
« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2018, 02:03:09 PM »
DARPA!
Terry





RealityCheck

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Re: Irresponsible research
« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2018, 11:03:20 AM »
'Trust us! We're with the Government and we're here to help! Of course this would never be weaponised, and we'll make sure it's completely safe!'
Oh. My. God.
Sic transit gloria mundi

SteveMDFP

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Re: Irresponsible research
« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2018, 06:36:14 PM »
The more I think about this DARPA-funded research, the more diabolical it seems.
It seems wildly improbable that the technology could realistically be used to "protect" crops during a growing season.  One of many barriers to usefulness would be that you'd need to infect a very high proportion of crop plants, requiring saturation crop-dusting of live insects over all fields at risk.

As a bioweapon technique, this wouldn't be so much of a problem.  Genes for many  different known plant toxins could be introduced into crop fields, and you'd only need a small fraction of plants for the resulting food to be toxic.  Suppose you infect 3% of corn plants with genes to produce high levels of ricin.  Quite plausibly, there'd be no way to visibly identify ricin-bearing corn.  Plausibly, a single corn muffin of the nation's corn flour could be lethal.

A nation could produce a bumper crop of grain, and then be forced to burn it all.

TerryM

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Re: Irresponsible research
« Reply #7 on: October 06, 2018, 06:55:16 PM »
Poisoning the wells writ large.


I can't imagine any way to effectively stop this research.


Just when you think things couldn't possibly get worse, DARPA goes off in this direction.


I still remember the good old days of Mustard Gas and Agent Orange. :-\
Terry

TerryM

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Re: Irresponsible research
« Reply #8 on: October 06, 2018, 07:14:27 PM »
Bio-Weapons in Georgia kill 79?

http://www.shtfplan.com/headline-news/russian-military-us-killed-dozens-by-bioweapon-disguised-as-drug-research_10042018


Can't be happening, after all our own Donald Rumsfeld would have warned the world. ::)
Terry

SteveMDFP

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Re: Irresponsible research
« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2018, 01:01:48 AM »
Poisoning the wells writ large.

I can't imagine any way to effectively stop this research.

Just when you think things couldn't possibly get worse, DARPA goes off in this direction.

Well, I think sidd was exactly right about going to the specific universities' Institutional Review Boards.  They're the bodies that police the ethics of research.

Then, for US voters, contacting our congresscritters.  This is the sort of matter that attention even from the minority party could put the brakes on.

It may be a challenge to organize mass protests and sit-ins over relatively obscure biological research.  Though, stranger things have definitely happened.

From my perspective, this is exactly the kind of unethical research that gets funded while we have someone in the White House who has exclaimed "why can't we use nukes?"

sidd

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Re: Irresponsible research
« Reply #10 on: October 08, 2018, 01:35:48 AM »
The newsarticle from penn state has a more comprehensive list of researchers and institutions:

Penn state, ohio state, u florida, u texas, Pacific Northwest nat'l lab, North Carolina state, kansas state, cornell.

The reference to eurekaalert from the paper has more

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-07/bti-brd072717.php

 Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI), the University of Minnesota, the University of California, Davis, and Iowa State University

If any of our readers are alumni or employees or students or otherwise associated with these, please take it up with respective institutional review boards and local media.

This is a multi administration effort with genesis in obama years.

I just spoke with someone at ohio state who is wired in to the power structure, and he predicts there will be a big stink about this research. Good.

sidd
« Last Edit: October 08, 2018, 01:42:08 AM by sidd »

icefisher

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Re: Irresponsible research
« Reply #11 on: October 08, 2018, 02:10:09 AM »
Unfortunately, DARPA has probably already perfected the process and is just looking for a new generation of agriculture graduate students in need of funding. 
I wonder if "Bayer" the new owner of Monsanto and its roundup herbicides knows anything about this?

sidd

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Re: Irresponsible research
« Reply #12 on: October 08, 2018, 05:49:11 AM »
Re: "DARPA has probably already perfected the process"

Is this conjecture or is there a reference ?

sidd

ivica

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Re: Irresponsible research
« Reply #13 on: October 08, 2018, 11:22:46 PM »
Sabine Hossenfelder Retweeted Ed Yong @edyong209 Oct 5:

"There is a lot of talk about educating society about science. Perhaps what is more needed is educating scientists about society."

"A Controversial Virus Study Reveals a Critical Flaw in How Science Is Done" by Ed Yong, Oct 4, 2018

"After researchers resurrected a long-dead pox, some critics argue that it's too easy for scientists to make decisions of global consequence."